The Weight of Love

John Herman, Author
John Herman, Author Nan A. Talese $23.95 (323p) ISBN 978-0-385-47815-1
Reviewed on: 05/01/1995
Release date: 05/01/1995
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In a season that has already seen one fiction debut by a former top editor (Jim Landis, with Lying in Bed), Herman (formerly at Ticknor & Fields) enters the lists with a novel written during his new leisure, and it's a striking work. Herman says he was inspired by Alberto Moravia's tales of amorous obsession set in Rome, feeling he could make New York into a similarly evocative background--and he was right. His tale of David Smith, an affluent wine merchant with a beautiful wife and a happy family who is suddenly smitten with limitless hungers for women he barely knows, carries a very similar charge, compounded of an unemphatic but telling style, a keen sense of erotic atmosphere and an easy rendering of social privilege. Smith's first mistress, Anne, shocked into response by his need for her, is the parent of a daughter's schoolmate. The second is Helene, an unhappy half-French, half-American in exile from her elderly, aristocratic husband, moving in chic ``Eurotrash'' circles. Smith's passion for her is profound and jealous, but he is unable to give up his family. The reader sees the affair through his eyes and then, daringly, through Helene's, so that what could seem like a conventional midlife romantic fling acquires a burden of ultimately tragic implacability. Herman writes authoritatively of banal parties among the wealthy, of nouveau-riche uneasiness, of middle-aged playgirls desperate for love and children, of the dark anxieties lurking beneath apparent easy sophistication. It's a book of real scope and insight--as well as a consuming, bittersweet page-turner. Author tour. (June)
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